I have found myself thinking about the film The Village the last two days. If you don't remember, that's the terrible M. Night Shamalamayanading (not sure on that spelling) film that's set in a pseudo 19th century American village, and which I believe is what precipitated Joaquin Phoenix's slow descent into facial hair.
(Spoiler Alert--I will be making fun of this movie, whose secret twist turns out to be that they are living on a huge preserve outside of modern day Philadelphia. Oh, and Bruce Willis was dead the whole time.)
In any case, J and I went to see this film in the theater. This was when I still believed in good old M. Night, and I expected to like the movie. And in fact, I would have enjoyed the experience of watching it, had I not been seated next to Mr. Engineer who insisted on informing me that it was impossible for the village to keep fires burning all along the periphery of the town all night every night and still have enough trees to hide the scary monsters. Couldn't he have waited until after the film was over, and I was picking it apart myself? (Not that I don't do my own share of experience-spoiling. While watching Cars, I kept saying to myself and J, "They don't have thumbs! How did they build this entire infrastructure? If Lightning McQueen is a rookie in the racing circuit, where did he come from? Who built him? Where do new cars come from in this world? None of this makes any logical sense!" J was not amused).
While I ultimately despised the film for the plot hole J pointed out, and all the other ones large enough to drive a horse and buggy through, it did make me think. Which means it wasn't an entirely wasted experience. Shyamalan, I believe, wanted to show that these individuals, in trying to save their children from the horrors of modern society, had become horrors themselves. They allowed their children to go blind and die from curable diseases. They "protected" their children by keeping them afraid to leave--and they did that by dressing up as horrible monsters and conducting raids on their own village. It was like a rich man's not-nearly-as-interesting-version of the Twilight Zone episode where all the people put on masks, and then become the horrors their masks show. (Which brings me to one plot hole that still bothers me--why couldn't they have just brought medical supplies with them? If they were making up the rules of their own little village, why not allow that one?)
I've been thinking about this because I've been worried about protection/overprotection as a new parent. I'd like to say that I'd never scare my child in order to protect him. But, when he's a little older, I can see myself giving him the information about things like STDs, driving fatalities, and the like. I'd like to say that it would be to help him make informed decisions, but if it scared him into being more responsible, would I have a quibble with myself? I suppose the difference, as I see it, between the Villagers and myself is that I would be scaring my child with information to help him as he goes out in the world, while M. Night's folks were scaring their children with smoke and mirrors to keep them close by and under their thumbs. There really is a difference there.
This leads to the frightening prospect I've been wrestling with for the past few weeks. Bed sharing, aka co-sleeping, aka how I've been sleeping with my infant son--is a controversial issue. I've already mentioned in this blog that the AAP comes down strongly against it. When I took LO for his one month appointment, my pediatrician definitely disapproved. She didn't yell at me, but she did tell me that she has seen infants die from bed sharing. She is not much older than me, and has only been working in pediatrics a short while, so that scared the sh*t out of me. The question becomes: is this a bogeyman, warning me away from potential dangers that aren't worth worrying about, or is it frightening information that I need to scare me into a responsible decision?
I've certainly seen my share of bogeymen in all of my child-rearing reading. For example, at a prenatal appointment in Columbus, J and I read an article in a parenting magazine about the number of children who are forgotten by their sleep-deprived parents in cars and then die from heat stroke. It sounds horrific. Approximately 30 children die that way per year in the United States. While every single one of those deaths is one too many, it simply does not compare to the number of children who are abused, shaken or starving every day in our country. The difference between those tragedies is that something concrete can be done about the car hazard (we could force car manufacturers to put baby alarms in their vehicles), whereas it is very difficult to do something about the other tragedies. This is just like how the Villagers in the movie gave their children concrete things to do to scare off their bogeymen--wear yellow, ring a bell, hide.
It's because of the concreteness of the co-sleeping suggestions (DON'T DO IT) that I tend to think it is a bogeyman. Often, real hazards in life are things you cannot really prepare yourself against. In my examples of STDs and traffic accidents, condoms fail and other people may drink or text while driving. You can only do so much to protect yourself and others.
There are some tin-foil hat wearers out there who suggest that the AAP is in the pocket of the big crib lobby. (I wonder what their bribes would be like. Licentious trips to Chuck E. Cheese? Milk-soaked "research" conferences with private appearances by The Wiggles? Private toy jets to Babies R Us? And, oh, the free matchbox cars! Who can resist free cars?) These co-sleeping, attachment parenting propagandists* suggest that the AAP made their call on bed sharing because of money from crib manufacturers. That seems ridiculous to me, and I have more trouble believing in the safety of bed sharing because of it.
But I've decided to continue bed sharing. And I'm going to talk about it and about my fears with it. Because of the AAP's negative stance on it, it's become something I don't feel like people talk about much. (At least in my own, admittedly unscientific, experience). However, I'm going to research this and get to a place where I feel more comfortable in the bogeyman/real concern debate. After all, I'm still a new parent. I still find myself checking that LO's little chest is rising and falling when he's sleeping. Fear seems to be an ever-present part of new parenthood. But my fears should remain mine, and not become something I pass onto LO. He doesn't need me to create any bogeymen for him, even while there are those who are foisting bogeymen onto me. I just hope to find a good balance, both for myself and for him.
After all, I'd hate for him to end up like this.
*By the way, I'm not calling all bed sharing attachment parents propagandists or tin-foil hat wearers. I just found some who were during the course of my research.